- Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine
The Return of Napa County Landmarks Holiday Candlelight Tour
By Rebecca Yerger
The eagerly anticipated return of a long-standing seasonal community tradition is now a reality. After being shuttered for two years due to the recent pandemic, the 31st Annual Holiday Candlelight Walking Tour will be held on Saturday, December 10 from 2 to 6pm. This iconic Napa County Landmarks event promises both its traditional showcase of local historic homes, as well as, some special features in celebration of its comeback.
The 2022 Holiday Candlelight Tour will also be returning to a later time of day. “This change is in keeping with the name of our event ‘Candlelight’ and its special ambiance,” said Ernie Schlobohm, Napa County Landmarks president. He added, “The tour hours will also provide some daylight hours for those who would prefer natural light while touring the open houses.”
This year’s tour will be set in one of Napa’s truly unique, eclectic and walkable neighborhoods. It is the Tree Streets district, in particular, Spruce, Elm and Franklin Streets. Schlobohm mentioned, “This neighborhood has not been featured before as a Holiday Candlelight location. It has its own architectural character that is different from the other historic neighborhoods of Napa.”
Event chair and Landmarks board member, Austene Hall, added, “The tour participants will see architectural details never or rarely seen locally, such as special design elements.” Dan Cutright, a Landmarks board member and Napa native also noted, “This neighborhood represents three distinct architectural eras and styles ranging from 1905 to 1949, including the 1930s Devita subdivision.” He continued, “With its abundance of charm, enveloping cozy feeling and architectural style rarely found locally, the Devita (tract) is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Napa.”
Some of these homes have been sensitively remodeled to maintain the sense of their original era while accommodating today’s residential needs. However, some Devitas have been preserved down to their original and genuine features.
Hall mentioned an example, “I love the attitude of one particular Devita home owner, Victoria. She loves it as it is, and didn’t, and doesn’t, want to mess it up by making any changes. She still has and uses the original 1930s stove! It’s pretty amazing! It is a time capsule yet it’s relevant to today and quite livable.”
Schlobohm said, “I have noticed a lot of pride on the part of the Tree Streets neighborhood property owners for not only their own homes and preserving their historic integrity, but also for their family-oriented and safe neighborhood.” He continued with sincerity, “I want to give recognition to the property owners who have agreed to open their homes for the Holiday Candlelight Tour, their courage to do so, andtheir commitment to preserving their properties and neighborhood.” Schlobohm added, “We are indebted to them for their support of Landmarks and its mission of historic preservation. Without them, the long-standing and popular community tradition, the Holiday Candlelight Tour, would not be possible!”
Another attractive detail of many of the Tree Streets properties is their deep and spacious lots. Schlobohm said, “The houses are modest to small and compact. But when you go outside into the backyards, wow, there is so much space. Most of them are beautifully landscaped. The individual garden-scaping plus the lot size makes these properties impressive.”
The featured tour homes are also the embodiment of the evolution of architectural styles and periods, lifestyles, societal trends, philosophies and events experienced by those who have called this neighborhood ‘home’ over time. Cutright said, “This neighborhood is not comprised of the grand mansions built for Napa’s elite. The Tree Streets is the neighborhood of the homes of teachers, Mare Island, Basalt and Kaiser Steel workers.” He added, “It’s a little different slice of Napa history and what local life was like in the 40s, 50s and 60s.” Cutright added, “Landmarks values not just the 19th Century Victorian mansions, but also the modest to small scale, working class residences as found within the Tree Streets district.”
This neighborhood and Cutright have a special connection. His childhood home is located on Elm Street. He has many fond memories of this place of his youth, especially his school, Shearer Elementary. He said, “Shearer was, and remains, the anchor of this neighborhood.” Cutright continued, “I can recall the many hours I played baseball after school with my friends at Shearer’s ball field.”
He also spoke of his favorite teacher. “I have vivid memories of Miss Lonnie Bunch, my sixth-grade teacher. She was ‘Miss Napa County’ in 1961, the first pageant for that title. She was just so lovely, tall and blonde. She drove a ‘64 Mustang and lived the ‘American Girl Dream.’”
Cutright also clearly recalled, “I remember during second, third and fourth grades, waiting backstage to go on for the annual school Christmas show.” With a laugh, he added, “We, the boys, had to wear a shirt, tie and sweater, and of course, I had my hair slicked back.”
This place of nostalgia for Cutright is also the site for the 2022 Holiday Candlelight Tour ticket check-in, reception with refreshments, silent auction, live music entertainment and one-of-a-kind murals exhibited in the adjacent school office.
Each of these murals depict a classic nursery rhyme, such as, Little Red Riding Hood. Dating to the early 20th Century, they were beautifully hand-painted by local artist, Louise Tessin Roats. These rare works of art were saved prior to the demolition of the 1922 Shearer Elementary School, the pivotal moment that forged Cutright’s dedication to historic preservation. He noted, “It was a tragic loss that still saddens me!”
This year’s featured neighborhood, its homes and school may be the most relatable tour to date for the contemporary participant. It may best reflect their nostalgic look back onto their own childhood memories. For many, the 2022 Holiday Candlelight Tour will be like going home of the holidays!
For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit napacountylandmarks.org or call the Landmarks office at 255-1836. Ticket pricing: advance purchase $35, Landmarks members $40, non-members and day of the event $45.